Profile cover photo
Profile photo
Shanna Mann
Catalyst, tinkerer, and general shit-disturber. Say hi!
Catalyst, tinkerer, and general shit-disturber. Say hi!

Shanna Mann's posts

Post has attachment
1% Challenge - Week 2 - Friday

This is the day of the weekly review.

I love the weekly review. It's a time to see what I got done, finish a few more things, and tie up loose ends before the weekend. It leaves me feeling really accomplished.

But I don't really have a cohesive system since I started trying to do more texted-based task management. But I think that I've stumbled on a pretty decent system. It's still in the roughest stages, but I feel pretty good about it.

It starts with Bullet Journal-style "quick logs." At the moment I'm using letter-sized grid sheets, but I await a new notebook (dot-grid Leuchtterm 1917, mailed from Germany). Don't get me started on notebook choices. Anyhoodle, you divide a sheet in half, vertically. One side is Capture; all the chores and questions that float through my head, tasks to do, things to check up on. The other side is logging, a real time list of what got done. Sometimes I list how long things took, but only if I'm like "This took way longer than you would think.

If the stuff on the Capture side gets done, then I cross it off. I do not carry it over to the next day, formally. But if it crosses my brain pan again, it gets written down again.

At the end of the week, I collect all the outstanding Capture items into a OneNote note. ON has this AMAZING todo list feature that allows you to tag each item with a different icon -- and these icons are customizable-- so it is very compatible with Bullet Journal in that regard.

I also go through all the stuff I logged and make sure they didn't spawn and other to-dos. This is really good to catch the stuff you have to followup on. Then I see how much stuff I can cross off this new, amalgamated list. Finally, whatever is left gets worked into Asana in order to plan the next week.

I'm not completely in love with the Asana step. I got into Asana in an effort to unify processes and tasks in the same spot, with an eye to beginning to use it to assign tasks to a VA. But its Android app is fairly useless, and there's no offline functionality worth mentioning. Still, it works for what I need it for, if a bit clunky.

The main benefit of this format is that the timely, the urgent, and the too small to mention is all handled in analog format, but there is still online backup and organization of larger projects which makes them shareable and searchable.

I've no doubt I'll make further refinements to the system over time, but this bare-bones digital-analog hybrid is a promising experiment and worthy of today's 1% improvement.

Is your task management system digital, analog, or a hybrid?

Post has attachment
1% Challenge - Week 2 - Thursday

Today was spent putting together projects. More so than most days; it involved keeping a bunch of details in my head while I assembled various pieces, and hammered everything together. The projects were novel, but they had echos of projects I had done before, so I was able to unearth old notes and checklists and make use of them. It's a weird sensation, kind of like decorating a Christmas tree. You pull out boxes of stuff you only vaguely recall as being somewhat appropriate for what you're trying to accomplish. When you take it out of the box its often much the worse for wear and needs mending before it can be used. And after a short period of time, you stuff it all back under the stairs again, forgotten, until perhaps you need them again. But these do not count as process improvements.

However, I AM proud to announce that I established a habit!

I'm always a bit loathe to say I have a new habit, but I figure that when I'm in bed about to go to sleep and I realize that I didn't accomplish something AND I GET OUT OF BED AND GO DO IT, then it's a habit. I don't HAVE to have my beans weighed, the French press clean and ready to go, and the kettle full of water and so on in order to get coffee in the morning. The coffee part was already automatic. However, I like the streamlined part where I spend the very first moments in the morning deciding how to spend my One Precious Hour, not doing the full coffee ritual.

And if the kitchen gets cleaned at the same time in the evening, that doesn't count, because it's still PREPARING, and not FINISHING CLEANING UP. The distinction remains important ;)

It's hilarious that the first habit-based improvement I made in this challenge revolves around a chemical dependency. Talk about motivation!


Post has attachment
1% Challenge - Week 2 - Wednesday

By the standard of the past week, today was uber-productive. Or maybe I was just in less pain (cobra pose, guys. It's legit.)

Lots o' high level stuff going on, solving problems at their root. I posted little tasks on Upwork that I've been putting off for too long because the level of effort:reward was too skewed. But if someone else can do the same job faster or cheaper, then fine. Plus, I'm willing to pay a small sum to get the job off my list and out of my hair.

These tasks are small enough. They're not actively thwarting me. But they are obstacles to producing. They are friction between me and the important things. They are dust bunnies in a tidy mind.

I'm trying to get comfortable with using money to solve problems, and apparently the universe is going out of its way to help me out here. For years, any way to solve a problem but money was on the table. I'm sure that was a limiting belief of some kind; to me it was just reality. Now, in so far as life has a lesson plan, I think this next lesson is "money is a leveraging tool just like anything else. Don't be afraid of it like it's a 40lb jackhammer you're afraid you can't control."

But the thing that got me over the hump was knowing that my computer time was going to be limited, and therefore I'd be far better off delegating as much as possible that trying to do it all myself. It's like that thought experiment "If the doctor told you that you'd die if you worked more than two hours a day, where would you focus your time?" This is incredibly tough, as a thought experiment, but surprisingly easy when push comes to shove. So I guess I'm grateful for the shove.


Post has attachment
1% Challenge
Week 2 - Tuesday

Some days I just judge it a miracle that anything got done at all.

The pain is straight across the should girdle today. I found a massage therapist and booked an appointment. I caved and ordered a wall-mount drop leaf table and a monitor arm-- pain makes you realize what's important I guess. I paid far less than I feared I'd have to, but we haven't tried them out yet. Right now the jury is out. This is frustrating.

Still, I got some stuff done, mostly by writing out a plan of attack by hand, on paper, then moving to the workstation to type it out before my wrists started hurting. And breaks. Lots of breaks. By the way, Sharise, you were right, the kitchen table is too high for me to write on comfortably. Yet another thing that has to change.

I've decided this is basically like Austin Kleon's "digital desk" and "analog desk;" two separate workspaces each devoted to different patterns of thought. It's probably a good idea anyway, and this makes me feel less like I'm consigned to face the wall with my nose in a circle in the name of ergonomics. Plus, who can make do with a mere 2' square workspace? Not me.

So the 1% challenge today was "reorganize." Reorganizing my way of thinking about how I need to work, want to work, ought to work, and begin to develop the possibilities that flower under constraints.

This is a seed of a way of life that's beginning to germinate. I think, like many obstacles and setbacks, it's going to provide fertile ground for my future productivity. Or so I tell myself. And anyway, what other alternative is there?

So: today I reorganized.


Post has attachment
==1 Percent Challenge - Week 1 - Friday==

So did you know that LastPass has quite a robust organizational component?

I spent a pretty significant chunk of the day trying to figure out why my VA lost access to Amazon. After extensive troubleshooting, Amazon said there should be no problem on their end, so I started looking further afield. Finally I discovered that the recent LastPass update had caused issues with Amazon logins.

In the process of troubleshooting, I learned a great deal about LastPass's capabilities. I don't know about anyone else, but I pretty much only ever used the little LastPass button in Chrome. Turns out you can organize, sort, filter, and much more. For instance, if you had a workflow that required opening multiple programs, you could put them all in a folder and have them launch and automatically login all at once.

I couldn't get too far into it, though, because I wanted to get the new Get Response newsletter set up, and the UI is almost completely dominated by icons (what is with that, anyway?) But by-and-by I learned their system and eventually realized that they aren't too fussy about their setup BECAUSE they just want you to get the damn email sent so that you can get data and start slicing and dicing it. That was an epiphany, especially after the endless customizations of MailChimp.

Since the first step is always realization, I'd say that starting to understand the possibilities of not one but two of the pieces of software I use in daily life, counts as my 1% improvement today. I wish I could have actually made some definitive changes but I just didn't have the time.

Overall, a pretty damn good week. 

Post has attachment
==1 Percent Challenge - Week 1 - Thursday==

This morning I was sitting in front of my laptop, doing my morning puttering. I was clicking around my ecommerce dashboard, basically just checking on things. It's one of those things that no one knows I do because I never thought to train anyone on it-- it "just takes five minutes."

Well, it takes five minutes when everything is fine. But when there's a problem, it involves more clicking, maybe even tech support. "Just five minutes" has expanded into whole hours from time to time.

So I immediately got busy listing all the 'just 5 minutes' tasks that I did for that particular business. Then I ran out of time and had to move onto something else.

But the damage was done-- all day, I was scribbling notes to myself about tiny, tiny, tasks that I could write a few simple instructions and have someone else do. Tasks so small that, outside of context, I can't even bring them to mind.

It was like a switch was flipped. I had been focused the BIG wins. The time-consuming tasks, the tedious, the highly technical. I had focused on the gravel and not the sand.

So I didn't complete anything today. I moved the needle on a whole bunch of stuff, but nothing is finished. But I'd say this perspective shift definitely counts as today's 1% improvement.

Can't wait for tomorrow. 

Post has attachment
​==1 Percent Challenge - Week 1 - ​Wednesday==

​I am so excited by this one. Thanks to a Christmas gift card and a stellar Ebay deal, I was able to pick up a sunrise simulation alarm clock for about 50% of retail.

You see, I want to get up early. But I get so anxious by anticipating my alarm that it ruins my sleep. From 2am on, I wake up every half hour just to reassure myself that I'm not going to get blared into bleary consciousness. It's an ugly way to live.

But, for the last month, I have been having good results with the Sleep As Android app. As a sleep tracker, I warn you that it is pointless if you share a bed. But the alarm can be setup to be one twitch of the vibrate function on your phone. I'm still a little bit of a restless sleeper with that kind of alarm, but I did all right, and for the past month I've been getting up regularly at 6am to write. It's been loverly.

Still, there's a world of difference between getting up because your alarm said so, and getting up because you're awake. Which is why I wanted a sunrise simulator.

And if today is any indication, I will be an evangelist.

The light started coming up at 5:30. By 5:40, I was awake. But I decided I would just doze for a bit more. After all, I still had twenty more minutes of "dawn" left. Nothing doing. 5 minutes later I was REALLY awake. So I got up, hit the button that disables the backup alarm, and courteously turned off the lamp before I headed to my desk. I was COMPLETELY awake. I feel the need to emphasize this. COMPLETELY, I-don't-need-no-stinking-coffee awake. (I had coffee anyway, obviously.)

If this is legit and not an effect borne from mere novelty, this is a helluva lot more than a 1% gain. At least 5%. Maybe as much as 10%.


Post has attachment
The ultimate luxury: Hey, you're all done what you intended to do and now you have an hour before your next obligation
Animated Photo

Post has attachment
==1 Percent Challenge - Week 1 - Tuesday==

Today I had to do a really time-consuming, rather manual task that is very subjective. In other words, it's really hard to teach someone else how to do it. I've tried a couple of times now, but it's one of those things where it's going to take an in-depth instruction video, some Q&A, plus weeks of spot-checking to make sure it's done right.

But, I also batch a couple of other maintenance tasks in with this process, and it occurred to me that I could at least hand out THAT part.

So thought became deed and I put together a procedure list, added it to the task document, and shared the necessary passwords.

I figure about two hours saved per month. I'll take it. 

Post has attachment
1 Percent Challenge - Week 1 - Monday

First workday of the new year, so what I decide to work on was accounting. I try to do this as close to the beginning of January as possible, because it's a lot easier to reconcile accounts and find all your records now than it will be in April. Seriously, get on this!

For my 1% challenge, I decided to set up all my monthly bills in the reminder system of Google Inbox. I accidentally paid a bill late last month and I am grumpy about it.

There are only a few bills that don't get paid out of the account automatically, but the ones that don't I doubly wanted an reminder. There are even a few things I have to mail cheques for! What is this, the dark ages?

This system is more of a "final failsafe." I already have a couple of systems in place to make sure all the bills are on time-- in the first place I have a little notebook that lists every bill, the date it's due and for how much, the dates of extra expenses like the quarterly taxes that are due in two weeks, and a list of all the dates that we're getting paid that month, and for how much.

That little page is my main orientation-- the big picture. I also keep track of everything as it goes out in a little program called You Need A Budget, which gets updated at least once a week.

But there was no "interruption reminder" to make absolutely sure a deadline couldn't be missed. The other systems relied on me to be on top of things, whereas the reminders will be that small safety net for the few times when I'm not.

Now, you might reasonably ask "Why not automate this? Or at the very least, just pay all the bills once per month?"

And the answer is: Sometimes I do. But sometimes our income is just too unstable for full automation or paying all the bills at the beginning of the month. And while we keep a cash buffer for emergencies, there are lots of times when we've dropped a large chunk of change on inventory and subsequently need to watch our pennies for three weeks until the inventory begins to sell. Such is the life of the entrepreneur.

So what about you? Do you have a "final failsafe" you could spend a half-hour or so implementing?
Wait while more posts are being loaded